Canada will soon require that health warnings be printed directly on individual cigarettes, becoming the first country to take this approach.

The new Tobacco Products Appearance, Packaging, and Labeling Regulations will be part of the Government of Canada’s continued efforts to help adults who smoke to quit, to protect youth and non-tobacco users from nicotine addiction, and to further reduce the appeal of tobacco, according to a release from Health Canada. 

“We are taking action by being the first country in the world to label individual cigarettes with health warning messages. This bold step will make health warning messages virtually unavoidable and, together with updated graphic images displayed on the package, will provide a real and startling reminder of the health consequences of smoking. We will continue to do whatever it takes to help more people in Canada, especially young people, live healthier, tobacco-free lives,” says Carolyn Bennett, minister of mental health and addictions and associate minister of health, in a release. 

The regulations, which will support Canada’s Tobacco Strategy and its target of reaching less than 5% tobacco use by 2035, will come into force on Aug 1 and be implemented through a phased approach that will see most measures on the Canadian market within the year. 

Retailers will carry tobacco product packages that feature the new health-related messages by the end of April 2024. King-size cigarettes will be the first to feature the individual health warnings and will be sold by retailers in Canada by the end of July 2024, followed by regular-size cigarettes and little cigars with tipping paper and tubes by the end of April 2025.

Other measures include:

  • Strengthening and updating health-related messages on tobacco product packages
  • Extending the requirement for health-related messaging to all tobacco product packages
  • Implementing the periodic rotation of message

The new regulations will be published in the June 7 edition of the Canada Gazette – Part II. In the interim, copies of the full regulations are available upon request by contacting [email protected].

These measures support the objectives of the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act (TVPA), including to enhance public awareness about the health hazards of tobacco use. The TVPA regulates the manufacture, sale, labeling, and promotion of tobacco products sold in Canada. 

This latest legislative review follows the December 2022 tabling in Parliament of the first legislative review of the TVPA that focussed on the vaping-related provisions and operation of the TVPA, particularly the provisions to protect young persons.

“Tobacco use continues to be one of Canada’s most significant public health problems and is the country’s leading preventable cause of disease and premature death in Canada. Our government is using every evidence-based tool at our disposal to help protect the health of Canadians, especially young people. Beginning next year, these new measures will help make sure that everyone across the country can receive credible information on the risks of tobacco use so they can make healthier choices for their well-being,” says Jean-Yves Duclos, minister of health, in a release. 

The Canadian Cancer Society also commended the new national tobacco regulations.

“A health warning on every individual cigarette is innovative and unprecedented,” says Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society, in a release.  “The measure means that health messaging will be conveyed with every cigarette and every puff, will be there during every smoke break, and will reach youth who experiment by borrowing cigarettes from a friend. This measure will reduce smoking and the appeal of cigarettes, thus preventing cancer and other diseases.”